Lahaina and the Power of Fire

Three weeks ago, Mary and I set at a table at the Lahaina Fish House. We relaxed enjoying a gentle breeze as we watched the South Pacific waves crashing alongside our dinner table. We enjoyed some ciabatta bread with salted butter before Mary’s tilapia and vegetables came out along with my Greek salad. We finished off the lunch with an amazing piece of key lime pie and then strolled down the street stopping at a myriad of souvenir shops. We walked along the shoreline, admiring the yachts, sailboats, and cruise ships. We watched and listened to the laughter as kids played on the Banyan Tree in the middle of a courtyard, it had been an incredible day. Little did we know we would be one of the last to enjoy Lahaina and its storied history. We, along with the world, have watched how in hours, fire ravaged a beautiful town, took countless lives, and destroyed a hundred and fifty years of history. Fire shows no mercy. It doesn’t respect the wealthy or the poor, the educated or uneducated; it doesn’t care about your ethnicity. Fire destroys and purges everything in its path. 

Years ago, while working at a Christian college, we sponsored a senior class and got to travel with them on their senior trip to Gatlinburg. We wanted to connect with them, make memories, so Mary stayed with the girls in their cabin, and I with the guys in there’s. After the first couple of days, they came to us and told us that they had pooled their money together and got us our own cabin. We were overwhelmed and grateful. We gathered our stuff, moved into the cabin, and as we entered, we noticed the cabins name, “No Problems.” It was a beautiful cabin, backing up to the woods, a spacious hot tub, and an amazing fireplace. The name and the cabin connected with us, so much so, that for years we would go back, often taking our kids to “No Problems.” 

I’ll never forget in 2016 as we watched the news and saw the horrific fires that had broken out in the Smokies. I remember reading one particular story mentioning that Black Bear Ridge had been hit extremely hard. Instantly, I recalled that was where No Problems was located. I looked for the rental on the internet, but nothing came up, and I had a sinking feeling that No Problems had fell victim to the fire. The next visit we made to the area we took a drive up to Black Bear Ridge, when we rounded the corner, my fears were realized, No Problems was gone, and the forest behind It bare. Fire shows no mercy, it doesn’t value your memories.

While fires are terrible, there is one caveat to a fire. It purges. Though everything is lost, invariably life comes back, and often it comes back stronger. Forest fires purge the dead, eliminates the weak, and destroys the diseased. After a forest fire, growth is new, strong, and vibrant. In Gatlinburg, new cabins are replacing the old and new forest growth is emerging. In Lahaina, while it is abysmal now, the loss of life and possessions horrific, in time, new life will come. Beautiful buildings will replace the old, businesses will come back stronger, and there will be a new energy and excitement in Lahaina. While nothing will replace the past and its history, a new future lies ahead.

I share all this because there is an important spiritual principle to be garnered. When the Spirit fell in the book of Acts it was described as fire. It was a purging fire. It expunged out sin, weakness, and failure. Eleven disciples, who swore to be loyal to Jesus at the Last Supper, had failed miserably, and now, they sit in an Upper Room trying to piece life back together. They, along with 120 others, gather waiting on God’s promise. When it came, it came as fire, and it changed everything. Weakness was gone, boldness came, and a Holy power empowered them. It’s just days later that they stand boldly before the Sanhedrin, refusing to bow, and it’s a few chapters later they are described as people who have turned the world upside down. What happened? What changed? A fire. The Holy Spirit. It purged out the old and brought vibrant life! 

Feeling weary? Feeling overwhelmed? Pray for a Holy fire to hit your life. It will change you forever. It will eradicate your past and bring you a vibrantly bright future. Discouraged by the direction of our country? Pray that God sends His fire, the Holy Spirit. It cleanses, it purges, it brings new life, and it makes all things new. God send us a book of Acts fire again.

The Less Traveled Road

Our recent travels took us to Maui. Before we left, we asked several who had been to give us some recommendations of what to see and do while we were there. The suggestions were as varied as a Ryan’s Buffet. Some suggested restaurants, others gave us sights that we shouldn’t miss. Nearly every list had one item on it, take the Road to Hana.

So, we did. We may be strangely wired, but I must say, it wasn’t for us. The eight-hour drive had a few beautiful views, the Garden of Eden was nice, and there were some scenic waterfalls, but overall, we were not impressed. Mary was not overwhelmed with the “best banana bread ever”, most of the stops were crowded to see much about nothing, there were long lines to cross one lane bridges, and the drive through the foliage got old after a while. And just so you know, the best part of the going to Hana is the journey, not Hana itself. After taking the Road to Hana I can now say “we’ve been there and done that, but we don’t have to do it again.”

That evening, after returning from our journey to Hana, we got a late text from someone with a final submission. It said, grab a sweet tea from McDonalds in Kaanapali, it’s like some you’ve never tasted. Take the western road, go North to Kapalua, and then continue to Kahului. The next day we grabbed breakfast, hit a few souvenir shops, and then Mary suggested we try the trip recommended in the text. Up to this point some suggestions had been singles, some strike outs, but this was a grand slam. First, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the McDonald’s tea was amazing. I don’t know what was in it, but we went back for more before we left.

The road to Kahului was stunning! Some of the most incredible and amazing views we have ever seen. Around nearly every turn, and there were many, was another breathe-taking view. Indescribable views of the South Pacific, amazing hues of blue waters, beautiful mountains, small villages tucked in small valleys, scenic bays, and a breath-taking rock at Kahakuloa Bay. It was an incredible journey.

What our friend did not tell us was two things. First, the road was not for the faint of heart, and if I knew what I know after taking the road, I probably would not have done it. Many one lane bridges, but also several areas where there was only room for one car. More than once we had to back down the road, find a wide spot in the mountain, so the oncoming traffic could pass. It also worked the other way, several times other vehicles had to back up to where there was a wide spot so we could get through.

The second thing that we weren’t aware of until later was that by going on certain parts of the road, we were violating our car rental policy, there was a red box area that said, “do not travel.” Thankfully we made it, got to see some astonishing views, and have a story to tell. If you are thinking about taking the chance, cover your own insurance and make sure you take the north to east route and not the west to south. You definitely want to be on the inside lane and not the outside!

My life lessons from our trip to Maui? There were several. First, like the Road to Hana, the roads advertised and promoted by others are not always the best roads. Too many times the bright lights and shiny packages turn out to be pandora’s boxes. Second, though difficult, sometimes life’s greatest moments are often found on obscure roads that few are willing to take. Finally, if you want to experience the awesome and incredible you have to be willing to take chances and go where few are willing to go. Take the road less traveled.